Wednesday, September 29, 2010
So how good of a manager was Cito Gaston?
Cito Gaston never had a lot of friends he could count on in the media. They ranged from Bob McGowan who hated him to Jeff Blair who was more or less agnostic. However, most fans loved Cito. But then again how many fans actually had any face to face interaction with Cito.
He could be tough and defiant and at other times warm and charming. In 1997 he accused several media people of racism. Then this season Mike Wilner was suspended three days after an altercation with Cito during a media scrum.
As the season and his managerial career wind down it's not too early to evaluate his legacy and determine whether he is worthy of entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With Cito it seems that when things are going good they are very good and when things go bad they can become extremely bad. Many players loved playing for him but not everyone. There was that clubhouse mutiny at the end of last season that no one wants to talk about. That ended with a face saving compromise where Cito got to stick around one more season and allowed to retire gracefully.
There is quite a legacy of getting great performances out of individual players - some unwanted by their previous teams. The classic example is Jose Bautista who went from a player at risk of finishing his career in the minor to being an all-star and home run champ under Cito's watch. The Angels had more or less given up on Devon White before he became a key player for the Jays under Cito. Include in this group Adam Lind who says he owes his career to Cito. But he could also turn on a player. Several players were banished to the minors in his last stint as manager including Travis Snider and Jeremy Accardo.
Much has been made of his two World Series wins and so it should be. How many managers currently in MLB have managed two championship teams? Not many. Some people argue that a mannequin could have won championships with those lineups and a better judge of his ability is what he has done with weak lineups. We know that after the Blue Jays were stripped of their talent post 1993 he appeared to have lost his passion and was eventually fired.
There are those who claim that he does not do what other good managers do - use his bench. Cito's approach has always been to stick with his starter through good and bad stretches. His track record shows that he has been paid back handsomely for his loyalty. His quiet calm on the bench can be confused with detachment but most players will tell you that this impression is so far from the truth.
Cito Gaston is a complicated and proud man. His good friend Paul Beeston provided him with the opportunity to leave the game with some dignity. He would love to be inducted into the Hall. That part of his legacy has yet to be determined.